Archived Story

Whether it’s cookies or money, finding stuff always lots of fun

Published 9:43am Tuesday, December 20, 2011 Updated 11:44am Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In your life, have you found a lot of stuff? Stuff like, you know, five-dollar-bills lying on the sidewalk, or a billfold someone lost, or someone’s diamond ring? Over the years, there have been some pretty memorable things that have popped up in my path.

We were tearing the ductwork out of a house many years back, preparing to install a new furnace and new ductwork. Anyway, there was so much dust and debris swirling around that we couldn’t see. Get it all down on the floor, let the dust settle a bit, pick it up, and begin from there. I stepped on some small object buried on the floor beneath matted layers of dirt and dust that we had knocked down off the ductwork during all this chaos, something lumpy enough that I picked it up, stuck it in a coverall pocket, and forgot about it.

Some days later, when I put on the coveralls to leave for another job in another house, being as we were all done and gone from the one above, I felt that lump and pulled it out. In my hand was a small, old, snap-open leather change purse. It was worn, cracked with age, and it was so full it was taut. It was easy to tell it wasn’t full of coins, and my immediate thought was: Oh, oh, here comes one of those ethics problems. It’s going to be stuffed with hundred-dollar bills, which some owner had hidden up on top of the ductwork.

Ooof. I gingerly pried it open, found two one-dollar bills inside, and some old grain elevator receipts from 1942, each for less than a dollar, for chicken feed. Two dollars in 1942 was worth stashing. It would buy enough flour and sugar and coffee to last weeks and weeks, I bet. Time had pared its value down to more of an amusement than a problem. There were no names inside, and its still in a junk drawer here someplace.

One of the devices I repaired in Vietnam was a hand-held metal detector, used by our soldiers to find land mines, back when they were still made out of metal. I didn’t use them so much as I repaired them, so the one time I did have to demonstrate one, and did actually find something, definitely ranks quite high on my list. I was a lot happier repairing them than I was using them, as one can imagine. Nothing else that I’ve found quite ranks on that scale, but then, that scale doesn’t exist for me anymore. Amen.

The other day, as I was walking, I found a resealed, clear cellophane-topped package of Oreo cookies lying on the side of the road. It was cool out, cool enough to preserve food, a definite plus in the debate that followed. It had two rows of cookies, one row of which was gone; the other row untouched. Another point. They were too big to get into a pocket, so I hand carried them for the rest of a mile, walked into the house, plopped them down on the kitchen table, and said to My True Love, with a large and inappropriate enthusiasm: “Look what I found.”

She inspected the package of Oreos at a distance, prodded it somewhat distastefully with one finger, and said I should throw them in the garbage.

“What?” I replied, as I began preparing a hot drink. (cookies are always better with something hot to drink, you know.) “Throw them away?” Her reaction was what I was after, that reaction people have to food that isn’t just so, a pretty common reaction, because very few of the people I know have ever been really, really hungry.

I however had just come from a vigorous walk, out in the brisk autumn air. It was quite a virtuous feeling, you know? I’d been exercising, making myself better fit, resisting the temptations that have made over 60 percent of Americans obese. Hey, it’s rough out there on the road, putting one foot in front of another, ears cold, nose running.

I’ve been doing it for a long time, and finally, the fates have provided me a reward, in the shape of Oreo cookies.

“I tell you what,” I said to My True Love, “I’ll call my brother the health department official, and see what he thinks.” She looked at me. I’m grinning. This is fun. I’m thinking, let’s get him in on this, share the fun.

So, he said after he answered and was told about this, “Let me get this straight: You found these cookies; hands haven’t touched that complete row, so, sounds good to me.” We kicked it around some more, giggling and laughing at My True Love’s discomfort with all this. With that, he hung up and went back to watching a movie.

My True Love, after I had eaten eight or nine of those cookies, had a couple herself.

Finding stuff is fun.

Say, if those were your cookies, they were really good.

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